Giant monsters have been part of my life for about as long as I can remember. I grew up watching black-and-white behemoths rampage through Tokyo. I watched Godzilla versus King Kong so many times that my VHS tape wore out. Whether you’re young or old, there’s just nothing quite like watching a 60 story monstrosity tear its way across a cityscape. But in all the years I’ve been watching kaiju movies, I’ve never asked what would happen if we charged Godzilla with a crime. Destroying a city has got to be illegal, right? In his series Kaijumax, writer and illustrator Zander Cannon offers an outrageous answer.
Kaijumax takes place in a tokusatsu inspired world of giant monsters. In it, kaiju are people just like you or me Giant, scaly people with fangs and claws, yes. But still talking, thinking, and undeniably human people with their own agendas. So when a Kaiju goes on a late night bender that ends in a radioactive meltdown, they get arrested like anybody else. Then they’re tried, convicted, and shipped off to Kaijumax, a maximum-security island prison for criminally minded monsters. Like most prisons, Kaijumax has more than its fair share of problems. From gang violence to drug abuse to crooked guards looking to make a buck, Kaijumax is a volatile mass of monstrous conflict on the best of days. But when a new inmate joins the prison population, Kaijumax careens towards disaster.
To call Kaijumax imaginative would be an understatement. Prisons have always been a breeding ground for intense drama. But when you add giant monsters to the mix the result is positively electric. Even with its strong story, Kaijumax’s artwork shines on its own. This series is chock full of bizarre monsters, each one different from the last. While Cannon’s art style in Kaijumax is colorful and cartoonish first-time readers should know that this story is definitely not for kids. As much as Kaijumax owes to its tokusatsu roots, it owes an equal debt to hard boiled prison dramas like HBO’s infamous Oz. The series never shies away from the bitter realities of prison life, including a disturbing sexual assault that that truly gets under the skin.
At times the disconnect between the series’ Saturday morning style and light night cable content is jarring. But for all of its darkness, Kaijumax offers hope. For a comic about giant monsters, Kaijumax is deeply heartfelt. Through it, Cannon explores real-world topics like post-traumatic stress as well as the trials ex-cons face outside of prison walls. The result is a comic that’s sometimes funny, frequently compelling, and oddly affecting.
Appropriately giant-sized, Kaijumax collects the first 12 issues of Cannon’s series. This collection is jam-packed with extras. Each page includes linear notes giving readers a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Kaijumax. For fans, these notes are a must-read as Cannon goes in-depth into his inspiration as well as a legion of references to famous kaiju and tokusatsu. While I’m not as versed as Cannon in the giant monster genre, I found his notes on how the comic shifted in tone a fascinating glimpse into the comic’s creation.
The other major draw of this gorgeous hardcover collection is its supplementary material. The book comes with a whopping 82 pages of bonus content including character designs and movie reviews. It even includes Cannon’s original pitch packet that sold Oni Press on the idea of Kaiju behind bars.
Kaijumax Deluxe Edition Book 1 is a must-have for Giant Monster lovers everywhere. It is available at comic book stores everywhere now.
'Kaijumax' Deluxe Edition Book 1
Kaijumax Deluxe Edition Book 1 is a must-have for Giant Monster lovers everywhere.